Meet the speakers

Note: This page lists only our speakers for TEDxUofW 2014. See our past events page for event-specific details.

Ben Gilbert

Ben Gilbert

Event Emcee

We could not be more excited to have Ben Gilbert as our Emcee for TEDxUofW! Ben runs The Garage, Microsoft’s Grassroots Innovation Program to facilitate hackathons and support side projects. He was previously the UX Program Manager on Microsoft Office for Mac, and has started multiple technology companies, with over a million app downloads on the App Store. Ben is an international facilitator for Startup Weekend, an organization running entrepreneurial events in over 100 cities around the world. He’s been a long-time admirer of TED, attending four previous TEDx events, and a part of the organizing team for TEDxSeattle. More information can be found at benjamingilbert.net or on Twitter at twitter.com/gilbert

Che Sehyun

Che Sehyun

Change Yourself to Change the System – because the system lives inside you

Che graduated from the University of Washington in 2011 with degrees in English, Physiology and Comparative History of Ideas. Mired in poverty and violence as a child, homeless in the womb with no cultural roots – he has come a long way and founded a life-coaching and educational consulting organization, Experience Ease. Education transformed his life and his life’s work. During his 6 years at the UW, he continued to notice a jarring reality – people who devoted their lives to dismantling or reforming systems (racism, capitalism, imperialism, sexism, etc.) were the very ones perpetuating and reproducing them by always moving relative to them. After unsuccessful attempts at broader social change, he focused on self-development and has completely transformed his life through good thoughts, practices and ways of living based in ancient traditions such as meditation, yoga, Tai Chi, Qi Gong, Shaolin Kung Fu and Capoeira Angola Palmares. Experience Ease helps students and families use the school experience to develop more fundamental life skills. Their motto: “we live the life we teach” – so you know it’s real.

Julia Robinson

Julia Robinson

Transcending Technology in Global Health

Julia Robinson is the Deputy Director of Côte d’Ivoire Programs and Director of Advocacy Programs at Health Alliance International, a center of the University of Washington’s Department of Global Health. After graduating from Rice University, she joined the US Peace Corps and served over two years in Benin, at which point she likes to joke that Africa got into her blood – literally and figuratively. Since then, she obtained a Master of Social Work and Master of Public Health from the University of Washington and currently serves as a faculty member at both schools. Her work at HAI focuses on strengthening public sector health systems and scaling up accessible, integrated HIV services in the northern regions of Côte d’Ivoire. Julia’s TEDx talk will explore how it’s time for us to transcend the idea that technology alone is the answer in global health and discuss some innovative ways to support the human health workers that are so critical to ensuring health for all.

Simon Tam

Simon Tam

A New Slant on Racism

Simon Tam is an award-winning musician, best-selling author, entrepreneur, and social justice activist. He is best known as the founder and bassist of The Slants, the world’s first and only all-Asian American dance rock band. His inspiring and unique approach to activism through the arts has been highlighted in thousands of media features across 82 countries, including: BBC World News, NPR, TIME Magazine, MTV, CBS, and the Wall Street Journal. Since 2000, he has been a performer, presenter, and keynote at events and organizations such as SXSW, Comic-Con, The Department of Defense, Stanford University, Rotary International, and over 1,200 others across North America, Europe, and Asia. You can find Simon’s appearance schedule, writing, and current projects at: www.simontam.biz

Anthony Back

Anthony Back

Communication, Empathy, & Serious Illness

Tony is Professor of Medicine at the University of Washington, where he is a practicing oncologist and researcher. His research focuses on how doctors communicate with patients about serious illness—and it’s uncovered some crucial gaps in what doctors say and what patients retain. With funding from the National Cancer Institute, Livestrong, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Schwartz Center for Compassionate Healthcare, Arthur Vining Davis Foundation, and others, he is working on a new paradigm of communication. In addition, he created and launched the first iOS app, VitalTalk, designed to help doctors, available in the iTunes store. To disseminate this work, he launched the nonprofit VitalTalk, to take a social entrepreneurship approach to transforming the way doctors communicate.

Ann Grabler

Ann Grabler

Imagination = Innovation: The role of Adventure Playgrounds

Ann attended Central Washington University, where she received her Bachelor’s of Science in Recreation and Tourism Management, and it was through her studies that she was first introduced to the marvels of Adventure Playgrounds. Her amazing feat was opening Washington State’s first Adventure Playground and only the fourth Adventure Playground in the United States. In fact, her work and the Adventure Playground garnered national attention, leading to a fantastic award: KaBOOM’s Playmaker of the Month (check out KaBOOM for more information). In the fall of 2009, while employed with the City of Mercer Island Parks and Recreation Department, Ann set out to open the best playground on Mercer Island. Countless hours of research leading up to the implementation and opening of the playground painted a very scary reality of modern play - it is declining and the long term effects are huge. Ann’s TEDx talk will explore the wonders of Adventure Playgrounds and the important role they have on inspiring future innovators who could create anything from inventions that curb climate change to the stories we love to get lost in. Ann promises to make you: laugh, pause to think about the role we all have in an innovative future, and instill that our imagination gives us wings even beyond childhood.

Troy Osaki

Troy Osaki

Transformative Storytelling: Poetry as a Tool for Liberation

Troy Osaki is a writer, performer and spoken word artist from Seattle, WA. Inspired by creative storytelling, his heritage, and movements for equality, Troy approaches his art in hopes of supporting and building his community. He commits to cultivating safe space for honesty and understanding, liberation of self, and having as much fun as possible while writing and sharing poems. After discovering spoken word poetry during his time at Garfield High School, Troy began centering his focus on creative writing. He attended open mics, writing circles, and poetry slams eventually becoming the 2012 Youth Speaks Seattle and University of Washington Grand Slam Champion representing Seattle at Brave New Voices in Berkeley, CA and the College Unions Poetry Slam Invitational in New York City. In 2013 he represented Seattle as a poet and performer in Pasadena, CA for Kollaboration Star, the largest Asian American talent show in the nation. Since graduating from the University of Washington, Troy now works as a teaching artist facilitating poetry workshops at Cleveland High School and a transitional housing unit for youth known as Spruce Street Crisis Residential Center. Troy writes poetry to honor his family’s legacy, and to work in solidarity with all groups of marginalized people. He recognizes poetry as a tool for healing, empowerment, and revolution.

Eric Klavins

Eric Klavins

Programming Biology

Eric Klavins is an associate professor of Electrical Engineering at the University of Washington in Seattle and is the Director for the University of Washington Center for Synthetic Biology. Until approximately 2008, his research was primarily in computer science and robotics. At about that time, he learned the basics of genetic engineering completely switched fields to synthetic biology and now runs an interdisciplinary group of engineers, biologists, experimentalists, and theorists – all focused on engineering life. In particular, Eric’s research concerns developing programming languages and abstractions that can be used to design, fabricate, test, and refine new organisms. Example applications include synthetic multicellular consortia that digest plant matter and produce biofuels, diagnose disease, or assemble into complex patterns and shapes. Eric is one of a new generation of new synthetic biologists eager to scale up the production of designer living organisms and put them to good use addressing pressing problems of the 21st century.

Sarah Olson

Sarah Olson

Sharing a Vision: Scientists and Animal Rights Activists Working Together

Sarah Olson is a sophomore at the University of Washington and a Comparative History of Ideas major with a tri-focus in critical human-animal, gender and environmental studies. A lifelong interest in animal ethics has led her to explore the systems of oppression through which humans and animals interact. Sarah is especially passionate about and interested in biotechnology strategies that are superior to animal testing in predicting efficacy or toxicity of drugs or cosmetics. She believes it is crucial to develop and fund effective and affordable alternatives to animal testing in order for system-wide progress to be made. Rather than pointing blame or working against one another, researchers and animal rights activists can work together to make alternatives to animal research possible, creating a win-win solution in which more effective models can be used and fewer animals harmed.

Dean Chahim

Dean Chahim

The False Hope of Technology

Dean Chahim is an environmental engineer, educator, and community organizer from Seattle. Growing out of a disenchantment with the way engineering is taught and practiced, he recently jointly designed and taught (with Daniel Ullom) a popular seminar for engineering students at the UW on “Engineering for Social Justice”. He has also taught an innovative course and published articles in academic and popular media on international development and global justice issues.

As an engineer focusing on cleaning up after toxic spills, he has donned rubber boots to collect samples and help assess contaminated sites across the Puget Sound, from the Duwamish shoreline to Gas Works Park. He is also one of the volunteer organizers of the Seattle Solidarity Network, a grassroots worker-tenant organizing project that builds community power through struggles against unjust housing and working conditions.

Dean graduated from the University of Washington with a B.S.C.E. in Civil & Environmental Engineering and a B.A. with Honors in International Development. Following graduation, he traveled across ten countries in the global South with the support of a Bonderman Fellowship, learning with everyday people and activists struggling for social change. This fall, he will begin doctoral studies in Anthropology at Stanford University, where he intends to study the relationship between foreign-funded engineering projects, globalization, and rising economic inequality in his parents’ home country of Afghanistan. More about Dean is available at his website, deanchahim.com.